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09/08/2015
 3 minutes

Hand-Wound Chronographs

By Isaac Wingold
Patek Philippe 5170 Handwound Chronograph Movement
Patek Philippe 5170 Handwound Chronograph Movement

Sometimes, the instant bond that a collector strikes with a watch is not based upon an astronomical number of impressive complications, a deep historical significance, or a current trend in the market, but solely because of thoughtful design and craftsmanship, or even unique charm. Not only does this speak to the remarkable nature of certain pieces One class of watches that we’ve found this experience to occur in quite frequently, is hand-wound chronographs, in which there are some truly gorgeous pieces to be enjoyed. There’s just something about winding your own watch everyday that’s rather satisfying, and the added functionality of a chronograph complication never hurt.

Given the fact that many of these watches possess a very clean, elegant aesthetic, most of them are produced by the preeminent manufactures of classical horology – namely Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and A. Lange & Söhne. To begin with Patek, one of their most collectible references today is the 5070, a dual register chronograph featuring a beautifully finished, Lemania-based manually-wound movement that’s nicely exposed through a sapphire crystal display caseback. Its impeccable proportions and no-nonsense dial with the perfect balance of scales, numerals, subdials, and void space, all make for a genuinely timeless wristwatch, that could easily be passed down for several generations to come. Furthermore, it’s produced in a number of alluring variants, each with varying values, that are all just about equally sure to excite even the most seasoned collectors around the globe.

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Auf & Ab
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Auf & Ab

The German minds behind what is arguably one of the most respected brands today, A. Lange & Söhne, also produce some terrific hand-wound chronographs, that have even been spoken very highly of by Philippe Dufour – a man who is commonly seen as watchmaking royalty.

Both their Datograph and 1815 Chronograph use in-house, column wheel chronograph movements, from the hand-wound L195 family, that are executed superbly. Even those not well versed in watches develop a strong admiration almost instantly, upon viewing the expertly finished movement that some have dubbed “a city under glass”.

Another approach that can always be taken when in the market for a classic, hand-wound chronograph, is to go the vintage route. While this certainly does complicate matters, it also increases your number of options drastically, and allows you to possibly find a piece with more character. Within this realm, one great option is the Ref. 4178 from Vacheron Constantin – a watch that just oozes understated class and elegance. The multi-scale dials that are often found on such examples, paired with their slightly ornate lugs, produce a phenomenal look that’ll surely satisfy your chrono curiosity for some time. Moreover, vintage Vacheron also presents a greater value-for money than watches from brands like Patek Philippe, while still possessing a comparable level of finishing and quality.

Vintage Vacheron Constantin Chronograph
Vintage Vacheron Constantin Chronograph, Image: Auctionata

So why are these watches so highly prized by discerning experts and casual collectors alike? Well, for one, the physical beauty of the movements which the aforementioned pieces contained is just something else. With a highly complicated watch, the movement often takes on a cluttered look, and the easy nature of viewing certain details can potentially be lost. While a chronograph may not be a basic complication by any means, you still get to see more of the movement on such pieces, making added details and thoughtful finishing effortlessly recognizable.

But beyond the visual and mechanical appeal of some of these pieces lies a simple yet powerful attraction – the personal link that individuals develop over time with such watches. In that they contain manually wound chronograph movements, they require daily winding to make sure they run optimally, and maintain a decently full power reserve. This daily ritual forms an endearing connection with a particular piece, that can’t be had with more technically adventurous, haute horology creations of the new age. Additionally, the reserved, classic design of these pieces give their owners satisfaction in knowing that their watch will never go out of style.

Regardless of the number of educated sounding reasons one can come up with as to why they need a hand wound chronograph, it really just comes down to it being a matter of the insatiable lust that collectors experience after immersing themselves in the world of horology. So go on, give into temptation, and see what classically designed chronograph satisfies your appetite best.


About the Author

Isaac Wingold

Isaac is a photographer and author from Toronto with a passion for extraordinary timepieces. He covered a wide range of topics while writing for the Chrono24 Magazine …

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